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Regional human rights institutions struggling against populism: The case of Venezuela

  • Gonzalo Candia

Abstract

Latin American history is full of populist experiments. The result of this history is a political culture across the continent characterized by conflict and polarization. The most recent wave of Latin American populism is represented by neo-populism. Neo-populism identifies itself as the “socialism of the 21st century.” Its most representative expression is the Chavista regime, which was led first by Hugo Chávez, and then by Nicolás Maduro. This Article, after examining what populism is, considers how regional human rights institutions of the Americas have dealt with the Chavista regime. In doing so, this Article describes the efforts deployed by both the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to keep Chávez under control. This Article concludes that regional human rights supervision, being relevant in the context of the Venezuelan experience, was finally incapable of either preventing or stopping the authoritarian path adopted by Chávez. This was because: (a) early supervision over the Chavista regime did not avert its leaders from abusing human rights afterwards; and (b) intensifying regional supervision over the regime became paradoxically self-defeating after it took full control of the State apparatus.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Footnotes

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Gonzalo Candia is a professor of Constitutional Law and International Human Rights Law, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Master in Law (LL.M) and Doctor in Law (S.J.D) by Georgetown University. The author would like to thank professors Francisco Urbina and Natalia Torrejón for their useful and insightful comments on this Article, as well as the German Law Journal peer reviewers. Email: gfcandia@fulbrightmail.org.

Footnotes

References

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1 Daniele Albertazzi & Duncan McDonnell, Introduction: The Sceptre and the Spectre, in Twenty-First Century Populism 3 (Daniele Albertazzi &amp; Duncan McDonnell eds., 2008).

2 See id. at 2.

3 See Ernesto Laclau, On Populist Reason 232 (2015).

4 See id.

5 See Cas Mudde & Cristóbal R. Kaltwasser, Populism: A Very Short Introduction 19 (2017).

6 Manuel Anselmi, Populism: An Introduction 2 (2017).

7 See, e.g., Mudde & Kaltwasser, supra note 5, at 9–19; Albertazzi & McDonnell, supra note 1, at 4–7.

8 See Alfio Mastropaolo, Politics against Democracy: Party Withdrawal and Populist Breakthrough, in Twenty-First Century Populism, supra note 1, at 34.

9 See id. at 12; Albertazzi & McDonnell, supra note 1, at 5.

10 See Anselmi, supra note 6, at 55.

11 See id.

12 See Mudde & Kaltwasser, supra note 5, at 28.

13 See Anselmi, supra note 6, at 58.

14 E.g., Rudiger Dornbusch & Sebastián Edwards, The Macroeconomics of Populism, in The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America 7–13 (Rudiger Dornbusch & Sebastián Edwards eds., 1992).

15 See id. at 7–8.

16 See id. at 12.

17 See id.

18 Robert R. Barr, The Resurgence of Populism in Latin America 58 (2017).

19 See id. at 65–66.

20 See id. at 66.

21 See id. at 66–69.

22 Anselmi, supra note 6, at 61.

23 See id.

24 See Mudde & Kaltwasser, supra note 5, at 31.

25 Ana Cristina Bracho, Discurso del Presidente Hugo Chávez en la Instalación de la Constituyente 1999, De Eso No Habla (May 2, 2017), https://anicrisbracho.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/discurso-del-presidente-hugo-chavez-en-la-instalacion-de-la-constituyente-1999/.

26 Hugo Chávez, President, Venezuela, Discurso en la Dexagésima primera Asamblea General de la Organización de Naciones Unidas [Speech at the Sixty-First General Assembly of the United Nations] (Sept. 20, 2006) (transcript https://www.marxists.org/espanol/chavez/2006/0001.htm).

27 David Landau, Abusive Constitutionalism, 47 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 189 (2013).

28 This translates literally to “Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America.”

29 This translates literally to “Free Trade Area of the Americas.”

30 This translates literally to “Union of South American Nations.”

31 For more information about UNASUR and the foreign policy developed by Hugo Chávez between 1999 and 2013, see Rita Giacalone, Venezuela en UNASUR: Integración Regional y Discurso Político [Venezuela in UNASUR: Regional Integration and Political Speech], 25(1) Desafíos 129 (2013).

32 See Veronica Smink, ¿Busca la UNASUR Reemplazar a la OEA? [Venezuela in UNASUR: Regional Integration and Political Speech], BBC News, Aug. 27, 2011, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias/2011/08/110826_unasur_consejo_electoral_vs.

33 Gelman v. Uruguay, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 221, ¶ 239 (Feb. 24, 2011).

34 See La Corte Suprema De Justicia [Supreme Court of Justice] Jan. 19, 1999 (Venez.), reprinted in Magistrado Ponente: Humberto J. La Roche, 5(1) Ius et Praxis 589 (1999), http://www.redalyc.org/pdf/197/19750125.pdf.

35 Id. at 602.

36 For a full statement of facts, see Joshua Braver, Hannah Arendt in Venezuela: The Supreme Court Battles Hugo Chávez Over the Creation of the 1999 Constitution, 14(3) Int’l J. Const. L. 555 (2016).

37 La Corte Suprema De Justicia [Supreme Court of Justice] Oct. 14, 1999 (Venez.), reprinted in Sentencia de la Corte Suprema de Venezuela sobre Decreto de la Asamblea Constituyente, que Contiene la Regulación del Poder Legislativo, 5(2) Ius et Praxis 459(1999), http://www.redalyc.org/pdf/197/19750217.pdf.

38 For a more complete account of facts, see Landau, supra note 28, at 203–06 (2013).

39 See Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Venezuela, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.118, doc. 4 rev. 2 (2003), http://www.cidh.org/countryrep/Venezuela2003eng/toc.htm.

40 See id. ¶ 561.

41 See id. ¶ 562.

42 Id. ¶ 563.

43 Id. ¶ 568.

44 Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II, doc. 54 (2009), http://www.cidh.org/countryrep/Venezuela2009eng/VE09.TOC.eng.htm.

45 Id. ¶ 1163.

46 Maye Primera, Chávez, de Nuevo Contra la OEA [Chavez, again against the OAS], El País, May 11, 2009, https://elpais.com/internacional/2009/05/11/actualidad/1241992801_850215.html.

47 American Convention on Human Rights, Nov. 22, 1969, 1144 U.N.T.S. 144; Letter from Nicolàs Maduro Moros, Minister, Popular Power of Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General, Organization of American States (Sept. 6, 2012), http://www.oas.org/dil/esp/Nota_Republica_Bolivariana_de_Venezuela_al_SG_OEA.PDF.

48 Democratic Institutions, the Rule of Law and Human Rights in Venezuela, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II, doc. 209 ¶ 476 (2017), http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/Venezuela2018-en.pdf.

49 Juan Jesús Aznares, Chávez Promete Imponer un Nuevo Orden Político en Venezuela [Chávez Promises to Impose a New Political Order in Venezuela], El País, Nov. 11, 1998, https://elpais.com/diario/1998/11/11/internacional/910738808_850215.html.

50 Press Release No. 26/99, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R. (Oct. 8, 1999), http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/1999/26-99.htm.

51 Press Release No. 14/02, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R. (Apr. 13, 2002), http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2002/Press14.02.htm.

52 Id.

53 Press Release No. 23/02, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R. ¶ 2 (May 10, 2002), http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2002/Press23.02.htm.

54 Id. ¶ 5.

55 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Venezuela, supra note 40, ¶ 74.

56 See Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela, supra note 45, ¶ 31.

57 Press Release No. 131, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R. ¶ 1 (Aug. 31, 2017), http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2017/131.asp.

58 Caso del Caracazo v. Venezuela, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 95, (Aug. 29, 2002).

59 Héctor Escalante, Presidente Chávez: el Caracazo fue la Chispa que Encendió el Motor de la Revolución Bolivariana [President Chávez: The Caracazo was the Spark That Ignited the Motor of the Bolivarian Revolution], El Correo del Orinoco, Feb. 27, 2010, http://www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve/presidente-chavez-el-caracazo-fue-chispa-que-encendio-motor-revolucion-bolivariana/.

60 Id.

61 See Caracazo, No. 95 at ¶ 51.

62 Gobierno de Venezuela Indemnizó a 600 Víctimas de El Caracazo [Government of Venezuela Compensated 600 Victims of El Caracazo], Telesur, Feb. 27, 2016, https://www.telesurtv.net/news/Gobierno-de-Venezuela-indemnizo-a-600-victimas-de-El-Caracazo--20160227-0028.html.

63 Id.

64 See Abraham Zamorano, Venezuela Abandona la Corte Interamericana: ¿Cambia Algo? [Venezuela Abandons the Inter-American Court Does Something Change?], BBC, Sept. 11, 2013, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias/2013/09/130909_venezuela_corte_interamericana_salida_derechos_humanos_az.

65 Caso Blanco Romero and Others v. Venezuela, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 138, (Nov. 28, 2005).

66 Ríos and Others v. Venezuela, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 194, (Jan. 28, 2009).

67 Perozo and Others v. Venezuela, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 195, (Jan. 28, 2009).

68 Reverón Trujillo v. Venezuela, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 197, (June 30, 2009); Chocrón Chocrón v. Venezuela, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 227, (July 1, 2011).

69 Barreto Leiva v. Venezuela, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 206, (Nov. 17, 2009).

70 Usón Ramírez v. Venezuela, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 207, (Nov. 20, 2009).

71 López Mendoza v. Venezuela, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 233, (Sept. 1, 2011).

72 Familia Barrios v. Venezuela, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 237, (Nov. 24, 2011); Castillo González and Others v. Venezuela, Merits, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 256, (Nov. 27, 2012); Caso Hermanos Landaeta Mejías and Others v. Venezuela, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 281, (Aug. 27, 2014).

73 Díaz Peña v. Venezuela, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 244, (June 26, 2012).

74 Caso San Miguel Sosa and Others v. Venezuela, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 348, (Feb. 8, 2018).

75 Allan R. Brewer-Carías, El Ilegítimo “Control de Constitucionalidad” de las Sentencias de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos por Parte de la Sala Constitucional del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia de Venezuela: El Caso Leopoldo López v. Venezuela, Septiembre 2011 [The Illegitimate "Control of Constitutionality" of the Judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela: The Leopoldo López v. Case Venezuela, September 2011], 10(2) Estudios Constitucionales 575 (2012).

76 For example, the irruption of populist forces in Europe has been limited at some point by the action of the bodies that configure the regional system of human rights protection in the continent. An example of this is the case of the colonel’s regime in Greece after the coup d’état in 1974. The regime was rapidly isolated and destabilized due, in part, to the actions of institutions such as the Council of Europe. See Victor Fernández, Facing the Greek Junta: The European Community, the Council of Europe and the Rise of Human Rights Politics in Europe, 24 Eur. Rev. Hist. 358, 358 (2017).

77 I thank Professor Oran Doyle for making this valuable point.

78 Ángel R. Oquendo, The Politicization of Human Rights Within the Inter-American System and Beyond, 50 N.Y.U. J. Int’l L. & Pol. 1, 2–5 (2017).

79 Maye Primera, Chávez Ordena la Salida de Venezuela de la CIDH [Chávez Orders the Departure of Venezuela from the IACHR], El País, Feb. 26, 2010, https://elpais.com/internacional/2010/02/26/actualidad/1267138801_850215.html.

80 Venezuela se Va de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos [Venezuela Leaves the Inter-American Court of Human Rights], Clarín, July 27, 2012, https://www.clarin.com/mundo/venezuela-corte-interamericana-derechos-humanos_0_SyYHLtW3Dmx.html.

81 James Cavallaro, Al Borde del Abismo: La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos Enfrenta la Peor Crisis Financiera de la Historia [On the Edge of the Abyss: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Faces the Worst Financial Crisis in History], El País, (May 23, 2016, 11:25 AM), https://elpais.com/internacional/2016/05/23/america/1464011720_921111.html; see also Press Release No. 69, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R. (May 23, 2016), http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2016/069.asp.

82 Maduro rechaza declaraciones de la “cuestionada” CIDH sobre Venezuela [Maduro Rejects Statements of the "Questioned" IACHR on Venezuela], El Nuevo Diario, (May 10, 2013, 2:19 PM), https://www.elnuevodiario.com.ni/internacionales/285683-maduro-rechaza-declaraciones-cuestionada-cidh-vene/. For a reaction against the position of Maduro, see Cristopher Sabatini & Jimena Galindo, It’s Not Just Venezuela: Elected Governments Don’t Necessarily Defend Democracy or Protect Human Rights, Wash. Post, Aug. 11, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/08/11/its-not-just-venezuela-elected-governments-do-not-necessarily-defend-democracy-or-protect-human-rights/?utm_term=.f795c7e3b775.

* Gonzalo Candia is a professor of Constitutional Law and International Human Rights Law, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Master in Law (LL.M) and Doctor in Law (S.J.D) by Georgetown University. The author would like to thank professors Francisco Urbina and Natalia Torrejón for their useful and insightful comments on this Article, as well as the German Law Journal peer reviewers. Email: .

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